Do you know which is an occupation and which is a legal concept?
When I tell someone what I do for a living, I sometimes say that I’m a web designer and other times that I’m a copywriter. I can reasonably say either, because I do both and probably in equal measure.
If I say that I’m a web designer, I get nods and questions about the sort of sites I work on. If I say that I’m a copywriter, I get a long pause while the person thinks of something suitable to say. They usually can’t, so I get “oh, so like copyright and trademarks?”.
If you thought this was what I meant; or you’re related to me and tune out when I talk about work; or if you belong to the vast majority of the population who are not copywriters, this explanation is for you.
Copyrighting is not really a thing
I’ll start off by saying that if I worked with copyright, I’d be a lawyer in private practice who specialises in intellectual property. I’d charge in an hour what it takes me a couple of days to earn and I’m pretty sure I’d be driving something sexier than a double cab ute.
I’d be an expert in copyright which is ‘the legal right created by the law of a country, granting the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution’.
Although I know some copywriters who were practicing lawyers at one time, most copywriters were not.
Copywriting is a thing
The result of a copywriter’s work is what’s called copy, and the objective of well-written copy is to take the reader on a journey that results in them taking action of some sort.
The term copywriting originally referred to the process of writing the wordy bits that went into adverts and copywriters were only really found in advertising agencies (think Don Draper and Mad Men).
As the scale and complexity of the internet has grown, so too has the role of the modern copywriter.
Although copywriters can still be found in advertising agencies, many more now work as freelancers for clients as diverse as web developers, small businesses, charities, corporates and government.
Copywriters write text for the following types of documents:
- Annual reports
- Award submissions
- Case studies
- Capability statements
- Client letters
- Email sequences
- Investor guides
- Press releases
- Product packaging
- Social media posts
- Tender responses
- Video scripts
Some copywriters are generalists who work with clients in different industries and write for copy that’s used in various types of documents. Others offer a more specialised service by focussing on one industry, document type or writing style.
Some copywriters focus on one industry
Some copywriters have extensive experience writing in a particular industry, so they can offer a depth of knowledge which makes their services especially sought after in that field.
One of the industry specialist copywriters I know of is Emily Rhodes. Emily is a specialist food writer. As well as publishing on her own website, Steam & Bake, she draws on a twenty-year journalism and food industry background to create copy for restaurants, food manufacturers and appliance manufacturers. Emily’s experience in developing and testing her own recipes, and writing marketing communications for food businesses, makes her uniquely qualified to write food copy and cookbooks for her clients.
Copywriters who focus on one industry may be skilled in several types of copywriting, but their ability to really understand a specialist area can be valuable to clients in need a writer who already knows the nature of their business.
Some copywriters specialise in one type of copy
If you needed to have the absolute best website sales page for your business, you might want someone who only writes sales pages, right? You’d be surprised how many copywriters out there work this way. They may work with clients across many different industries, but they have proven track records of getting results with one type of copy, such as product descriptions, brand stories or email sales funnels. These copywriters become highly specialised and often quite well known in their particular areas.
Jenny de Lacy is an experienced copywriter in Melbourne who took her superpower for writing video scripts, and turned it into a business called The Visibility Coach. Jenny gives entrepreneurs the skills and encouragement to write effective short video scripts. Her courses include other skills they’ll need to produce videos to a high enough standard to promote their business or personal brand, but her strength and specialty is video script copywriting.
Other copywriters specialise in one particular writing style
One of the newer styles of copywriting is digital or search engine optimisation (SEO) copywriting. This style of writing requires a writer to consider many factors in the planning and execution of the copy.
An SEO copywriter will analyse their client’s business needs, the client’s competitors, the reason readers are coming to the site (what they want to be able to do) and what words (keywords) they associate with the thing they’re looking for, which in itself can be highly variable.
They will consider information hierarchy, which is the order that information needs to be provided to visitors in to improve comprehension and success. They will consider user reading patterns across a range of devices and how the copy will present once it’s formatted into a design (colours, font sizes, font styles) as these can alter or affect meaning too.
The outline for a website is often led by an SEO copywriter as this informs the design process and makes the whole process easier for everyone.
Then there are copywriters who offer complementary services
Some copywriters, like me, offer complimentary services in addition to copywriting, such as graphic design, web design, social media management, Facebook or Google advertising, marketing funnel automation, VA services, education and training. There is such a close connection between some of these things and the copy that goes into them, that it can be a natural progression for copywriters looking to add services under their umbrella.
What are you waiting for?
If you love to write and think that copywriting could be a great occupation for you, I encourage you to find a copywriter and ask them lots of questions.
If you have a business and don’t know an apostrophe from a comma, or a your from a you’re, I especially encourage you to find a copywriter and ask them lots of questions.
If you neither want to be a copywriter nor need the services of one, that’s okay, I won’t make you go and find one. Next time you’re talking to one though, you’ll be able to say “I read a blog post recently about copywriters, so I know exactly what that is.” Have smelling salts handy, they may just faint from surprise.